First, I am not a Constitutional lawyer. These are strictly my opinions and interpretations. Everyone has their opinions about gun control so I thought I’d weigh in on the matter and hopefully apply some “common sense” to the argument, if possible. Second, when I mention “Army” below, I mean all branches of the military. It’s just easier to use one term for them.
If you read the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, this is what it says:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Now, there are about a half dozen different definitions for militia. Here are some from Dictionary.com :
1. a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies.
2. a body of citizen soldiers as distinguished from professional soldiers.
3. all able-bodied males considered by law eligible for military service.
4. a body of citizens organized in a paramilitary group and typically regarding themselves as defenders of individual rights against the presumed interference of the federal government.
My personal definition is that a militia is a group of citizen-soldiers, distinctly different from a regular army because they aren’t employed by a government as soldiers. This makes a militia different from the Army National Guard or Reserves because the militia doesn’t regularly drill or anything and they don’t aren’t necessarily affiliated with a government. If they choose to help out a larger government, then it’s a personal decision for each individual, or at least a decision decided by the community. No one can force a militia member to do anything (see below).
As part of my definition, the militia is formed in a community for the defense of that community. Hence, the militia is under no obligation to go away from the community to participate in a military action, otherwise the community loses its local defense. However, if the community determines that the best defense is to send the militia somewhere to help, then that’s their choice. The government is responsible for national defense; the militia acts like a “stop gap” defense in case invaders make it over the border. (Ever see the movie Red Dawn?)
So, now I’ve established my personal definition of what a militia is. Let’s see how it applies to the 2nd Amendment. A “well regulated militia” essentially means a well managed militia. By my definition, this means the community controls how the militia operates. They determine such things as regular musters to make sure people can respond to emergencies in a timely manner, designate people to certain assignments, etc. The community determines the role of the militia.
The “security of a free State” part means (again, to me) that the militia has no role in national issues. They are strictly local, up to and including the defense of the state in which it resides. Again, this is different from the National Guard. The National Guard is under the control of a state governor, so a state-wide defense would be established by the National Guard and the individual militias would contribute to that defense by acting as regional backups within the state. The National Guard could be moved wherever necessary throughout the state but the militias would stay near their respective communities.
The “right of the people to keep and bear arms” is an interesting phrase. Using my definitions above, I arrive at an unusual position, very different from most people (even gun supporters). Since a militia may be called upon to face an invading force or some type of well-armed unit, I believe the militia should be adequately and equally prepared. To this end, I believe a militia should have the same weapons that the regular Army has. That’s right, I said the militia members should have automatic weapons, assault rifles, etc.
Now, bear with me as I make my argument. The regular Army is responsible for national defense, both overseas and at home. The Reserves supplement the Army by providing additional members when necessary, therefore they are equivalent to regular Army. The National Guard is nominally under control of a state governor; however the President, as Commander-in-Chief, can take control and use the National Guard as a Reserve component.
All of these units have regular military equipment. Perhaps the Reserves and National Guard don’t have the newest, top-of-the-line gear because they are “rear-guard” forces but they at least have modern equipment. They aren’t armed with WWII bolt-action rifles.
However, under current laws and regulations the members of a local militia can only be armed with sporting rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic weapons. If a militia is truly supposed to protect a community in time of war or other military-style crisis, why should they be armed worse than the enemy? If the invading force is armed with modern weapons, just like our Army, then there is really no way a militia could be a viable defense. If you consider the Revolutionary War, Civil War, et al. the militia members had the same personal weapons as the opposing forces.
Hence, militia members should be allowed to own military-grade small arms if they are expected to be a true defense. I’m not saying they should have rocket launchers and other large-area weapons at home but they should have access to the same technology level they will be fighting, otherwise you are doing them a disservice.
If you paid attention, you may have noticed that much of my thought process isn’t necessarily applicable in this day and age. I came up with my definitions during the Cold War when everyone was concerned about being invaded by the Soviet Union. What are the chances we will be invaded nowadays? Probably not nearly as high.
But I still consider it insightful to consider what a true militia is and how the 2nd Amendment can be applied to the issue of gun control in this regard. People who want to have weapons can become part of a local militia and follow the regulations set forth by the community and the gun control people can help decide what the local regulations are.
None of this affects personal defense though. However, I will lay out my thoughts on personal defense and guns at a later time.